Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Childhood maltreatment reduces brain volume.

Shortly after putting up this post on maternal nurturing correlating with larger hippocampal volumes, I can across the flip side of the story from Teicher et al. Comparing 193 subjects of average age 22 who showed high vs. low scores on the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire and Adverse Childhood Experience study showed volume reductions in several areas of the hippocampus:
Childhood maltreatment or abuse is a major risk factor for mood, anxiety, substance abuse, psychotic, and personality disorders, and it is associated with reduced adult hippocampal volume, particularly on the left side. Translational studies show that the key consequences of stress exposure on the hippocampus are suppression of neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus (DG) and dendritic remodeling in the cornu ammonis (CA), particularly the CA3 subfield... The sample consisted of 193 unmedicated right-handed subjects (38% male, 21.9 ± 2.1 y of age) selected from the community. Maltreatment was quantified using the Adverse Childhood Experience study and Childhood Trauma Questionnaire scores. The strongest associations between maltreatment and volume were observed in the left CA2-CA3 and CA4-DG subfields, and were not mediated by histories of major depression or posttraumatic stress disorder. Comparing subjects with high vs. low scores on the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire and Adverse Childhood Experience study showed an average volume reduction of 6.3% and 6.1% in the left CA2-CA3 and CA4-DG, respectively. Volume reductions in the CA1 and fimbria were 44% and 60% smaller than in the CA2-CA3. Interestingly, maltreatment was associated with 4.2% and 4.3% reductions in the left presubiculum and subiculum, respectively. These findings support the hypothesis that exposure to early stress in humans, as in other animals, affects hippocampal subfield development.
Added note: Relevant to the subject of this post, I just got an email from a children's metal health advocacy group, The Child Mind Institute, that is sponsoring an annual public education campaign called "Speak Up For Kids".

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